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The Healing Power of Nature

Just as its name suggests, Naturopathic Medicine is a natural way to achieve and maintain good health.  Naturopathy is a holistic system based upon the healing power of nature and approaches healing by treating the whole person - the mind, body and spirit - and enhancing each individual's own vital force to heal itself. Naturopathic Medicine or the "nature cure" is considered a way of life, as well as a means of treating human illness.

The body possesses an inherent ability to heal and restore sound health.  Naturopathic philosophy is basically twofold: To assist the body to call upon its own resources to heal itself - and - to encourage individuals to develop a better lifestyle in order to achieve the best possible health for a long and meaningful life. Naturopathic Medicine is an art, as well as a science, and focuses on eliminating bad lifestyle habits (junk foods/drinks, etc.) and substituting good ones (healthy diet, exercise, fresh air, positive mental attitude). This distinct medical system of healthcare practices diagnosis and treatment with the aid of natural, non-toxic therapies.

Although a Dr. John Scheel of New York City is sometimes credited with launching the term, Naturopathy* in 1895, to describe his method of health care, which involved a combined hydrotherapy with hygienics, the discipline of the "nature cure" truly evolved in nineteenth century Europe (specifically in Germany and Austria), where the modern form of naturopathy developed, based upon the use of water, herbs, food, air and light to treat illness, and we have these early founding fathers to thank for their pioneering work:

Originally called the "water cure," Vincent Priesnitz (1799-1852) used nothing except cold water, a simple diet and physical activity to heal his patients and claimed that his mission was "not to treat the disease, but the patient."

Theodor Hahn (1824-1883) used the "water cure" with a vegetarian diet and believed that health practitioners should educate people in the knowledge of healthful habits and natural treatments, so that they would have the tools to understand that they were responsible for their own good health.

Arnold Rikli (1823-1906) also employed the "water cure" and good diet as the basis of good health, but added the use of fresh air and sunbaths.

Father Sebastian Kneipp (1824-1897) approached physical healing in a holistic way, using herbs and the famous "water cure" and advocating a change in lifestyle, including a balance between work and leisure, stress and relaxation, and general harmony on a mental, emotional, physical and social level. Father Kneipp provided the link between the European nature cure and American Naturopathy.

Benedict Lust was born in Germany and emigrated from there to the United States in 1892. After he contracted a severe case of tuberculosis, he returned to Germany to die, but, instead, he found Father Kneipp and was cured. Sanctioned by Father Kneipp, Lust returned to the United States in 1895, to preach the gospel about the "water cure."  In 1896, Lust (who is also credited with coining the Naturopathic* name) had established a Naturopathic store that sold Kneipp products, and in association with it, he later opened two Yungborn Sanitoriums, established a Naturopathic college (1902) and started a Naturopathic magazine. His school, the American School of Naturopathy, granted degrees in this healing art and emphasized the use of natural cures, proper bowel habits and good hygiene. This was the first time that dietary principles, such as increasing fiber intake, eliminating processed foods and minimizing saturated fats, were proposed.  Although his natural healing philosophy flourished among those who sought a natural way to better health, his methods met with powerful opposition from the established medical community.

*Note: In fact, the true origin of the name, Naturopathy, is unclear. It is known that the word was coined, possibly from "nature" and "homeopathy," a system of healing that Naturopaths had begun to use.

Naturopathic Medicine flourished in the United States in the early part of the twentieth century but fell into decline as "miracle drugs" and technological advances in the pharmaceutical and medical communities became the order of the day. Then, in the 1960s, a renewed interest in naturopathic-style, holistic medicine regained popularity, as people wished for fewer synthetic chemicals and less invasive medical treatments and also became more environmentally aware. We realized that our own planet possesses all the necessary ingredients for a healthy and balanced life - organically grown produce, unprocessed foods, fresh air, sunshine, clean water, herbal supplements and complementary, non-toxic natural medical treatments.

Treat the Entire Person
It is important to understand that modern Naturopathy incorporates a comprehensive body of knowledge and an approach to healthcare derived from the latest scientific understanding of the human body, as well as from long-standing traditional systems of healing. The naturopathic physician is highly educated in a program that is very similar to a conventional medical education with the primary differences being in the therapeutic sciences. Modern naturopathic physicians are primary health care providers who rely on laboratory diagnosis, psychological assessment, clinical and physical diagnosis and use of therapies that are almost exclusively natural and nontoxic. In the area of diagnosis and treatment, there is emphasis on preventive diagnosis, such as genetic analysis, personal history, nutritional deficiencies and on natural therapies, such as clinical nutrition, botanical medicines, homeopathy, acupuncture, fasting, natural childbirth, hydrotherapy, physical therapy, exercise therapy, counseling and lifestyle modification.  Most naturopaths consider their care complementary, not supplementary, to the care of a traditional medical professional.  A naturopathic physician not only identifies a disease but also tries to understand the dynamic of the disease (which direction it is taking) and then eliminates the cause of disease.  He/she will base the diagnosis and treatment on the patient's individual needs.

Modern Naturopathy is governed by the ethic of "doing no harm," treating while minimizing harmful side effects and avoiding symptom suppression.  Furthermore, it advances the philosophy that treatments should include the entire person, not just the symptoms nor a single body part - understanding that all parts of the body are inextricably connected and that synergistic, holistic regimens are more effective than isolated treatments.

The role of the physician is not to simply diagnose and treat a condition, but he also plays the role of counselor and teacher and educates the patient with the knowledge of how to achieve and maintain good health and a long life by simply embracing good habits.  Since prevention is the best medicine, the physician motivates the patient to be responsible for his/her own health by replacing poor habits (thus preventing illness) with a healthy lifestyle based upon the natural principals of diet, water, exercise, botanical treatments, fresh air, massage and the many other natural holistic avenues to good health.

It is important to motivate individuals with the philosophy that good health is a long-term proposition, and an improved physical and mental state of being will ultimately produce the goal of naturopathy that that imbued those early practitioners - the body will heal itself if given the proper tools, and ultimately, we must trust in the healing power of nature.

Suggested Reading
A very peculiar practice - From the BBC News Health Section - 08/26/99
"At the Hale Clinic in London - where Diana, Princess of Wales, used to receive treatment - you can see anyone from an osteopath to a Qi Gong therapist. Dr Dooja Purkitt, who was medically trained in India, practices Ayurvedic medicine at the clinic - an ancient Indian art which uses herbal remedies, yoga, massage and meditation." This article also discusses other alternative methods.


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